A.J. Burnett Happy to Leave New York, Says Struggles Result of Yankees Tinkering With Delivery

by NESN Staff

February 20, 2012

A.J. Burnett Happy to Leave New York, Says Struggles Result of Yankees Tinkering With DeliveryThe New York Yankees were happy to get rid of A.J. Burnett, and given his recent comments, it looks like the feeling was mutual.

Burnett, who was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a pair of low-level prospects last week, spoke about the chance for a "fresh start" after arriving at the Pirates' spring training facility in Pirate City, Fla., on Monday.

"It's going to be fun. I'm going back to the National League, where I can hit and bunt and get the joy back into the game," a very relaxed Burnett said, smiling and joking with reporters.

The 35-year-old right-hander signed a five-year, $82 million deal with the Yankees before the 2009 season, but has been fairly inconsistent and was seen as somewhat of a disappointment in his three seasons in New York.

Burnett expressed relief over leaving New York, saying, "It was fun the first couple of years. Then it got like, I'm never going to get out of this funk."

With a career 121-111 record and 4.10 ERA, Burnett has never been considered the epitome of consistency. But over the past two seasons, Burnett has struggled mightily, compiling ERAs north of 5.00 in each and leading the league in wild pitches with 25 in 2011.

The new Pirates pitcher claims that his struggles in New York weren't a result of solely his own faults, though.

"I let a few too many people tinker with me, maybe," Burnett said. "When you let that happen, you start doubting yourself sometimes. You wonder, 'Am I doing it right? Is this how it's supposed to feel?' and things like that.

"In '09, nobody messed with me. I was able to do what I wanted to do on the mound, whether it was turn around, close my eyes and pitch upside down. Then you have a few bad games and you start changing and listening."

Whatever the issue has been over the past two seasons, Burnett has a great shot at starting anew with a franchise that finally seems focused on building a contender.

The move is a relatively low risk, high-reward scenario for the Pirates, who are paying just $13 million of the $33 million remaining on Burnett's contract.

If Burnett pitches well, the Pirates will have made out like bandits. And if he remains an enigma on the mound, he can merely serve as an innings eater for a team still looking to mature.

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